47 Creative and Easy Ways to Grow an Email List (Mostly Free!)

18 min read

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A list of creative ways to grow your email list | By The Side Blogger
Every business needs an email list. But growing and sustaining that list requires continuing effort.

It took me over four years to grow my email list from 0 to 7.7k (active!) subscribers, and trust me, as much work as it is to make that number grow, it’s even more work to make sure my list isn’t growing stale, and that my subscribers are staying engaged.

The Side Blogger ConvertKit Dashboard | Tips to Grow and Maintain an Email List
The Side Blogger ConvertKit Dashboard

Previously, I had written a blog post about how to grow an email list as a blogger. That’s a great post—if I may say so myself—where I have shared a complete step-by-step guide on how I, personally, grew my email list with my blog.

In this blog post, I’m going to do something different: I’m about to give you a list of 47 ways you can grow and maintain an engaged email list. Not all of the 47 methods will be applicable to you or your business (I know for sure that many of these are not right for my business,) but hopefully, some of these will spark an idea and give you a new way to start growing and sustaining your email list.

Content

But first, some basics:

Things You Need to Know About Email Lists

In this section, I’ll go over some email list basics so you know what’s what!

What is an email list

An email list is a list of email addresses given to a business by blog readers or website visitors or customers, who want to receive information via email about the business, including but not limited to, content updates, new products, discounts, and more.

Sign up for an email marketing platform

To build an email list, you will need an email service provider (ESP), also often referred to as an email marketing platform.

This platform allows you to create email opt-in forms, landing pages, and depending on the platform you choose, they may also have powerful automation, third-party software integration, and subscriber segmentation methods using tags or separate lists.

What are some common email marketing platforms?

And many more.

I love ConvertKit because it was practically built for small business owners, and especially bloggers! But feel free to check out some of the other platforms in this list to see if you like one more than the others.

But, a little more on ConvertKit because I love that platform so much!

Useful ConvertKit features:

  • Ability to create simple opt-in forms (both embedded and popup; I love the no-fuss forms!)
  • Beautiful landing page options
  • Simple, fuss-free email templates
  • The ability to tag subscribers (great for targeted emails and promos)
  • Powerful automation using rules and visual flows
  • Tons of third-party integrations (useful for automatically collecting subscribers from third-party software such as online course platforms, eCommerce customers, etc.)
  • Paid newsletter options
  • Commerce (for selling products and services)
  • Tip jars

And many, many more!

Screenshot of ConvertKit pricing page.
Screenshot of ConvertKit pricing page.

In any case, you’ll need to sign up for an email marketing platform to start collecting subscribers, so why not give ConvertKit a try? They offer a free plan to beginners, but the Creator plan (starting at just $9 per month) opens up some of the most powerful automation features of ConvertKit.

How to Build an Email List: Free 5-day Email Course

Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.

Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)

47 Easy Tips for Growing an Email List

As I’ve said before, not all of these methods will be useful to every one of you. I’m certainly not doing them all to grow my email list. Just pay attention to the ones that are most relevant to you and your business model.

For simplicity, I’ve decided to group similar methods together.

Grow an Email List with Your Website and Blog Posts

1. Start a blog

One of the best ways to grow an email list is with a blog. No matter what type of business you have, a blog with high-quality, value-packed content will establish you as an authority. This will bring subscribers, customers/clients, and help you grow your business.

I recommend setting up your business website and blog with the self-hosted WordPress platform. My blog (this very blog) is built with WordPress on SiteGround hosting.

Here’s a guide for starting a blog.

2. Utilize SEO to drive traffic to your blog

Just setting up a blog and writing blog posts isn’t enough. You need to start driving traffic to your blog post, and the best way to do so is with SEO.

Research your topics well before writing, and then try to outdo your competition in terms of value and quality. In time, you will start seeing more and more organic traffic to your blog. And the more people come to your site, the more opportunities you’ll have to gain subscribers.

3. Create freebies to incentivize potential subscribers

One of the ways I get a lot of subscribers is by offering something for free in exchange for email list signup.

For example, above, you see that I’m offering a free email course about building an email list as a blogger. That’s a freebie. Some of you may even sign up for that free course, but in exchange, you’ll need to give me your email address and become a subscriber.

4. Create many freebies

Don’t just make one freebie and expect everyone to sign up for it. Different people come to your website or blog in search of different things. So, you too should create different freebies to cater to the varying interests of your audience.

For example, if you spend some time on my blog, you’ll see that I have a lot of different freebies. On my homepage, I offer a free email course on how to start a profitable blog. In this post, I offer a free list-building email course. In a different blog post, I offer a pre-recorded webinar on how to increase your Canva template sales.

These different types of freebies attract different types of readers and subscribers, helping me to grow my email list by appealing to a wider audience.

5. Create freebies in different formats

Not only should you add variety to your freebies, but their formats too!

For example, I offer free email courses. They’re ConvertKit email sequences that are automatically delivered to subscribers who sign up for that specific freebie. Here’s a guide to using ConvertKit, if you need some help.

I also offer downloadables—PDF documents that are guides or lists of some sort.

I offer free Canva templates.

I offer free, pre-recorded webinars (videos.)

Etc.

6. Consider adding a library of freebies

When you have a lot of different types of freebies, you can bundle them up and offer that as another freebie! I have done exactly that with my library of freebies. Basically, when someone signs up for my freebies library, I give them access to a page that contains almost all of the freebies that I offer on this blog.

7. Create standalone freebies and also content upgrades

Standalone freebies are those that you can promote anywhere on your site or even off-site using a landing page. My free email course on how to start a blog is a standalone freebie.

I also have a blogger media kit freebie which is a content upgrade—meaning, it was created to enhance or add value to an existing piece of content/blog post (the blog post about how to create a media kit as a blogger.)

Some freebies can be both—standalone and a content upgrade. The free course on building an email list is such a hybrid freebie. It can stand alone on its own, but it can also be used to enhance an existing blog post on a similar topic (such as this blog post.)

8. Use a combination of embedded forms and popups

I like to use both embedded forms as well as popups on my blog.

I use popups only on certain pages/posts because too many of them can be annoying. But when used strategically on certain posts, they can significantly improve your email list signups.

Pay attention to which freebies are performing well, and add popups for those on relevant pages or posts.

Embedded forms are less intrusive, so I use them generously.

9. Use an email opt-in form on every single blog post

Most organic traffic, as well as social media share traffic, lands on a blog post or page, rather than the home page. People also spend the most time on blog posts and reading the content. That’s why having an email opt-in form on every single blog post ensures the maximum number of conversions.

10. Use a call to action on the hero section of the homepage

When a reader likes a blog post, their next move is usually clicking to the homepage to see what the blog is about. That’s why, it’s crucial to have some kind of call to action on the homepage, ideally, at the top of the homepage on the hero section (area visible above the fold.)

I recommend having a call to action button instead of a form on the homepage for aesthetics. The button can lead visitors to an opt-in form (similar to what I’ve on my homepage.)

A call to action on The Side Blogger homepage
A call to action on The Side Blogger homepage

11. Grow your email list with guest posts

One of the ways bloggers grow their network and reach is with guest posting—it’s when you write blog posts for someone else’s blog. Typically, you write these blog posts for free in exchange for adding a link or two back to your own blog. This can help drive traffic to your blog, build authority, get backlinks, and improve the domain authority of your blog.

Guest posting can be a great opportunity to add a link to your email list opt-in form or landing page.

12. Share your email list in your freelance writer bio

Similar to guest blogging, if you’re a freelance writer/blogger, you may get a byline (unless you’re ghostwriting.) You can share a link to your newsletter opt-in page in your author bio.

13. Utilize waitlists

If you have an upcoming product launch or webinar or workshop or some other type of offer, you can create a waitlist to collect email addresses.

Basically, ask people to sign up for your email list in exchange for being the first ones to know about whatever it is you’re selling or offering or when it will be available.

I have implemented the same method with my blog writing workshop. I offer quarterly workshops, but in-between enrollment periods, the landing page for the workshop shows an opt-in form for those who wish to be on the waitlist.

Use a waitlist for upcoming products or offers to collect email lists.
Use a waitlist for upcoming products or offers to collect email lists.

Grow an Email List with Your Email List

14. Incentivize subscribers to get new subscribers with referral rewards

Several years ago, I subscribed to a newsletter called TheSkimm (← love it! Consider signing up; on top of receiving a highly skimmed and skimmable news-related newsletter every morning, you’ll also learn funny, witty, and effective copywriting skills.)

They did a really cool thing: They incentivized their subscribers to bring in more new subscribers by offering tiered rewards. (I received a tote bag for referring 10 new subscribers!!!)

You can do the same with your newsletter too.

In fact, the ConvertKit Creator Pro plan comes with a newsletter referral system (with a partnership with SparkLoop) that automates the whole process. You can find out more about this here.

15. Decrease unsubscribes with great content

One way to grow an email list is by minimizing how many people unsubscribe from your list.

Every time you send an email, some subscribers will inevitably unsubscribe. That’s normal.

But, pay attention to which emails get more unsubscribes compared to those that get relatively fewer unsubscribes. Try to see if there’s a pattern, and then send the types of newsletters that get the least amount of unsubscribes.

Play with newsletter subject lines, content, content length, and style to see if you can find patterns. And overall, share super useful and value-packed content with your subscribers (whether with unique newsletter content or linking to awesome content on your website) so that your subscribers want to stay on your email list.

16. Get the newsletter frequency right

Newsletters are all about relevancy. Basically, you don’t want your subscribers to get tired of you, nor do you want them to forget who you are!

So, I recommend sending your subscribers at least one email every week, up to perhaps three. But probably no more than three emails per week (with an exception for when you’re running timed sales/discounts on products.)

If you don’t email them for a few weeks, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant, and thus more people will unsubscribe when you do send the next email after a long hiatus.

17. Send targeted emails

This method is great if you offer different types of services or content types. When collecting emails, use tags (if you’re on ConvertKit) or whatever segmentation method your email platform offers. That way, you can send targeted emails and offers based on your subscribers’ unique interests.

If your subscribers get more of what they’re interested in, you’ll decrease your unsubscribe rate dramatically.

If you’re on ConvertKit, this blog post shows you how to use the platform, including how to use tags to identify subscribers by interest.

18. Use cross-promotion to promote newsletters

A great way to increase subscribers is by using a method called cross-promotion.

You can partner with other businesses that complement yours (complement, not compete) and promote each other’s newsletters. This way, both you and your promotion partner will be able to tap into each other’s audiences and grow your respective email lists.

19. Enable newsletter sharing with a public feed

Newsletters are often treated as a special privilege. People who sign up to be on your email list receive exclusive content and deals from you.

But you could also make your newsletter (or part of it) public, and enable sharing just as you would your public blog posts. For example, if you typically send three weekly emails to your subscribers, consider making one of them public.

With ConvertKit, you can make an email public with just a click, which then appears on a public feed. A public newsletter can be shared easily with anyone, even those who’re not on your email list. This is yet another way to share your awesome email content and attract potential subscribers.

ConvertKit public feed
This is what the ConvertKit public feed page looks like.

20. Personalize your emails

Some creators go the extra mile to address each subscriber with their name. It’s easy to do with practically all email platforms. When collecting emails, you can add a field to collect their name too. Then, when drafting the email, you can enter a platform-specific code to automatically enter each subscriber’s first name.

On ConvertKit, you insert the following to add the subscriber’s first name anywhere in your emails.

{{ subscriber.first_name }}

Personalizing an email creates a sense of familiarity, according to some email marketing pros. This familiarity can compel some subscribers to stay on your email list and engage with your content.

21. Add a call to action to improve engagement

When subscribers are engaged with your content, including the emails you’re sending them, they’re more likely to stay on your list.

One of the ways to improve engagement is by adding a call to action or CTA.

Basically, ask your subscribers to do something. Adding links is one of the basic forms of CTA—it compels them to click the link. As bloggers, you can easily link to your latest blog posts in newsletters to improve engagement.

Other CTAs to consider:

  • Add a poll
  • Ask subscribers to comment on a blog post or check out a social media post
  • Conduct a survey
  • Ask to provide feedback on your blog/products/services, etc.

22. Create unique and “special” content to keep your subscribers from unsubscribing

Stale newsletters are the biggest culprit to increased unsubscribes or existing subscribers going cold.

To increase open and click rates and decrease unsubscribes, periodically offer exclusive content to existing subscribers. They can be simple things like a downloadable checklist of some sort, free templates that are relevant to your subscribers, or any number of things that you think your subscribers will appreciate.

23. Incentivize subscribers with exclusive discounts and coupons

If you sell products or offer services, consider running periodic sales that are specific to your subscribers only. Exclusivity can be a big factor in retaining subscribers.

Also, it’s a great way to increase your sales and income too. I mean, email marketing isn’t cheap. You need to make money to sustain it. But the return is so many times over that the expense ends up being the best investment a business can make.

24. Promote your newsletter with ads

You can promote your newsletter with social media ads, which I’ll talk about shortly, but did you know that you can run ads on other people’s newsletters too? You can do an outreach yourself—find business owners, content creators, and bloggers who’ll promote your newsletter on theirs.

You can also use newsletter ad networks (Swapstack, for example) to find potential partners.

25. Clean up your list of cold subscribers

No matter what you do, some subscribers will go cold over time (meaning, they will stop opening your emails or engaging with them.) This can happen for a lot of reasons. Maybe your emails are landing on their junk/spam or promotion folders. Maybe they changed their email. Maybe something else. Who knows…

The point is, cold subscribers are not good for you. For one, they make your open and click rates go down. Second, they’re part of the reason why more and more of your emails may land in other subscribers’ spam or promo folders—subscribers who actually want to read your emails.

It is painful to see a shrinking email when you bulk delete all of your cold subscribers, but trust me, having an engaged list with high open and click rates is way more worthwhile than having a large list of cold subscribers.

Clean up your list every quarter to maintain a healthy email list.

26. Use a link to an opt-in/landing page in your email signatures

You probably send tons of emails not just to your subscribers, but to others as well in your day-to-day business activities. Some of them may be potential subscribers. So, add a link to your opt-in form or landing page in your email signature.

If you have team members/employees, ask them to do the same.

Grow an Email List with Sales

27. Capture leads from your eCommerce sales

If you’re selling things on your website such as digital or physical products, you can (and should) capture leads during your sales. Some eCommerce platforms will integrate with your email marketing platform to seamlessly do this. You may also check to see if there’s a Zap (with Zapier) that would enable this process.

For example, I use the WooCommerce platform (from the same folks who built WordPress) to sell my Canva templates, and ConvertKit integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce with a plugin that automatically captures leads from my purchases.

28. Capture leads with online course sales

If you’re an online course creator, you can use the same method as above to capture leads from your customers/buyers.

I host and sell my online course(s) with the Thinkific platform. Thinkific also integrates seamlessly with ConvertKit (using ConvertKit API) and automates the whole process.

Grow an Email List with Instagram

29. Use your Instagram bio link to promote an opt-in freebie

That Instagram bio link is where you share your important stuff with your followers.

Instagram allows one link on the bio. Instead of adding a link to your website’s homepage, consider adding a link to an opt-in form that offers a freebie your followers would be interested in. You can also add a link that houses more than one link on that page to multiple resources of interest. They can be links to your opt-in freebie(s), paid products, etc.

You can use your website to design this bio link (as I’ve done for my Instagram bio link page.)

Alternatively, you can use Linktree or Canva to design a bio link website.

Instagram bio link website for The Side Blogger
Instagram bio link website for The Side Blogger

30. Share your freebies with Instagram posts

Whenever you create a new freebie, share it on your Instagram feed with a new post. In the description for that post (as well as on the post itself) ask your followers to get that freebie by going to the bio link (make sure to add a link to the freebie opt-in on your bio link page.)

But don’t wait to create a new freebie. Keep sharing the existing ones periodically to remind old followers, and inform new ones.

31. Share your freebies on Instagram stories

You can use link stickers on Instagram stories to directly take your followers to a website or landing page. Use it to share your freebies and grow email list subscribers. You can find a short guide to using Instagram link stickers here.

You’ll need a creator or business profile to insert link stickers, FYI.

32. Run Instagram ads

You can promote a specific freebie using Instagram ads, provided you have a business or creator Instagram account.

Grow an Email List with Facebook

33. Share opt-in forms/landing pages on your Facebook business page

If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can share links to your opt-in freebies there. You can also pin a post promoting your newsletter at the top of the page.

34. Add a “Sign up” button to your Facebook page header

Your Facebook page has the option to add a button to its header. You can make this button go to a newsletter opt-in page. This guide shows you how to add this button.

Action button on the Facebook page header.
Action button on the Facebook page header.

35. Use your Facebook group to collect emails

If you have a Facebook group of your own, you can collect emails using your group. You can promote your newsletter or individual freebies within your Facebook group, just as you might within your Facebook page.

However, another way to collect emails using your Facebook group is to ask for emails using a membership questionnaire. Basically, Facebook allows you to restrict group membership using some initial membership questions. You can use this to collect email addresses from those who wish to join your group.

36. Share your newsletter on others’ Facebook groups

If you’re a member of Facebook groups that allow self-promotions, then you can take that opportunity to share your newsletter or opt-in freebies. Just make sure that you’re sharing this with the respective group owner’s permission.

Also, beware that you can end up wasting time if you share your newsletter and freebies with an audience that doesn’t care about your niche. It’s important that you promote the right things to the right audience.

37. Run Facebook ads promoting your newsletter

Like Instagram, you can run ads on Facebook too, if you have a Facebook business page.

Grow an Email List with Pinterest

38. Share newsletter opt-in link on Pinterest bio

Pinterest bio is a great place to share your email list opt-in page link. You can even share a link to a collection of links just as you do with your Instagram bio link website. Or share something unique and specific, depending on your audience and their interests.

The image below shows my Pinterest bio.

Screenshot of Pinterest bio.
Screenshot of Pinterest bio.

39. Share newsletter opt-in link on Pinterest board descriptions

If you use Pinterest to promote your blog (which you totally should) you likely have a few Pinterest boards to categorize Pins by topics.

Each Pinterest board allows you its own custom descriptions. You can use this description area to promote a freebie that aligns with that board’s topic/niche.

40. Share your freebies with Pins

Just like you would share your blog posts using Pins, you can do the same with your opt-in freebies. Promote them using Pin graphics, and link them to the freebie opt-in form or landing page.

Grow an Email List with YouTube

41. Add your newsletter opt-in link to your YouTube banner

Do you have a YouTube channel where you share videos? Then consider adding a link to your newsletter opt-in page or any specific opt-in freebie landing page on your YouTube channel banner. You can set up this link from your channel settings.

Go to “Customize Channel > Basic Info” and then scroll down to the “Links” section to add or edit the banner link. The image below shows my YouTube channel banner.

YouTube channel banner for The Side Blogger YouTube channel
YouTube channel banner for The Side Blogger YouTube channel.

42. Add a link to your opt-in page on YouTube video descriptions

You can add a fair bit of info in the YouTube video description area. Consider adding a link to your newsletter opt-in page on all of your video descriptions.

43. Use end screens and cards to add opt-in page links

YouTube has some handy features like cards and end screens for creators where you can add clickable links to direct viewers to an external website. You can use these features to add links to your newsletter opt-in page.

Grow an Email List with Medium

44. Add an email list opt-in page link to your Medium “About” page

The “About” page is where you can share information about yourself and your business on Medium. When people like an author on that platform, they tend to click the author’s profile and head to the “About” page to learn more about them. I highly recommend adding a link to your email list opt-in page in this area. The image below is my “About” page on Medium, for example.

Screenshot of About page on Medium
Screenshot of About page on Medium

Speaking of Medium, if you love writing, I highly recommend Medium. You can use that platform to write whatever you want, including topics related to your niche. Medium is like a social media platform for long-form content—perfect for writers!

For $4.99 per month, you can also read an unlimited number of stories on Medium. Consider signing up!

If you need some help getting started, here’s a handy beginner’s guide to Medium.

45. You can add a link to your opt-in page inside Medium stories

Not everybody uses Medium to grow their primary blog (outside of Medium) or business. But if you do, if what you write on Medium is directly relevant to your business (as I do with one of my publications,) then consider adding a link to your newsletter opt-in page inside your stories.

You can also add a “signature” at the end of all of your stories where you can ask your readers to sign up for your email list in exchange for a freebie that your readers may be interested in.

Grow an Email List with LinkedIn

46. Add a link to your newsletter opt-in on your LinkedIn bio

LinkedIn has grown beyond a professional networking site with more and more social-media-like features. Use this opportunity to use the platform to grow your blog and business—add a link to your newsletter opt-in page on your bio.

47. Write LinkedIn posts highlighting your opt-in freebies

You can use LinkedIn posts to share and highlight your free offers, and then add a link to the opt-in pages. The idea behind this is the same as highlighting your freebies on Facebook or Instagram. The more you share, the more people will start to find your content and opt-in to your email list.


That’s a long list of things you could do to grow and maintain a healthy and engaged email list.

I hope you found some of these useful.

As for me, I primarily use my blog to grow my email list. I’ve also been trying to use Medium lately, and Pinterest is just amazing. However, I’m not that big into Facebook or LinkedIn yet.

Which methods have you found useful in growing your email list? Do you have a creative way of growing your list that I haven’t mentioned here? Please let me know in the comments.

How to Build an Email List: Free 5-day Email Course

Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.

Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)

A list of creative ways to grow your email list | By The Side Blogger

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